When converting a RN-BSN completion program (nine out of ten courses) from a traditional face-to-face setting into a blended format a variety of essential partners were included to develop successful and effective blended courses. Participants included nursing faculty with experience teaching in online, blended, and face-to-face instruction, nursing faculty with content/subject expertise who may or may not have taught in a variety of formats, an Instructional Designer, affiliate faculty who teach the courses, and program administrators.
Regis University has a long history of very successful online and ground-based RN-BSN completion programs. In the summer of 2012 a decision was made by program administrators to convert the entire ground-based RN-BSN program (nineout of ten, three credit courses) into a blended format that could be taught at various outreach/employer sites. Faculty who taught in the online RN-BSN program were recruited to lead the project. The end goal was to create a product that met the same approved and accredited course objectives, outcomes, and content as the online and current ground-based courses without sacrificing quality of instruction or the effectiveness of teaching and learning experiences that was present in the traditional delivery format.
After reviewing the literature including resources such as Quality Matters various formats of delivery were selected. It was decided early on to include essential players who have various roles in the design, implementation, maintenance, and instruction of the courses. These essential players included nursing faculty who had experience teaching in online, blended, and face-to-face formats, nursing faculty who have content/subject experience, an Instructional Designer from the Learning Technologies Department who has extensive experience working with the RN-BSN online courses and faculty, various affiliate faculty who teach the courses, and the program administrators. During the design phase of the courses the essential partners offered important perspectives about course objective and outcomes, structure of assignments, which technology would enhance learning, which technology to avoid, best practices for teaching/learning, and how to create student learning communities that would be successful for both synchronous and asynchronous learning.
At Regis University, the RN-BSN program is taught in eight week terms. Based on the unique attributes of some courses, the complexity of the material presented, and additional factors such as one course being a clinical practicum, different formats were used for four of the nine courses. For example, the first course, NR444R is an introductory course in the program. This course was designed so that only two of the eight weeks met in an asynchronous format giving student time to adjust to the new format. It was also determined that any new technology used in this course would be first demonstrated and trialed during the face-to-face class sessions so that students could receive immediate "how to" instructions live from the instructor thus eliminating potential student/faculty frustration at having used unfamiliar technology on their own. Another course with more complex content on Research and Evidence-Based Practice was structured in a similar format as the introductory course so those students have more face-to-face time with the instructor and their peers to ask and answer complex questions. Instructors and students can also decide during Week seven of the course whether or not they want to continue meeting face-to-face or online. The majority of courses, five out of the nine courses are structured in a standardized four by four format in which classes meet face-to-face for four weeks and the other four weeks are online. Flexibility is offered to affiliate faculty teaching this course that they may alter the format of delivery depending on holidays, bad weather, or their own scheduling conflicts. Students enrolled in the course are notified in advance by the instructor of any course scheduling changes. The last type of delivery is based on a seminar type delivery. Two of the nine classes in the program meet this way. In this structure, five of the eight classes are in an online format and students meet face-to-face on the first, at mid-term, and the final class. During these classes students are involved in field projects and are given more flexibility with their time. The increased asynchronous time is used for students to "check in" online to report progress on their activities.
As a result of the collaborative actions of essential partners realistic and relevant courses were created that enhance student learning, improve skills using technology, and increase flexibility for faculty and students. The first cohort of students is completing their program this summer. We are currently in the data collection phase of this program. Preliminary data suggested that the students are highly satisfied with this form of instruction; appreciate the flexibility in their time commitments as they are working professionals. Affiliate and full-time faculty who have taught these blended courses report high levels of satisfaction with the course, format of delivery, and flexibility of their instructional time.
Course evaluation surveys (which unfortunately I am not able to provide) suggest students are very satisfied with this method of instruction.
An IRB approved study is currently underway. We are in the data collection phase regarding student satisfaction with this form of learning, whether or not blended courses enhanced their learning, increased the flexibility of their time, and increased their skills using technology. Faculty satisfaction data collection is also underway.
Excellence in learning is a central tenet of Regis University. Learning effectiveness, and student/ faculty satisfaction are key areas that are measured at Regis just as they are with Sloan C's quality framework. As an accredited institution it was highly important to match or even exceed standards of learning effectiveness demonstrated by student outcomes. Student and faculty satisfaction are important in that they are generally measured in retention. If either is dissatisfied with the quality of instruction, they leave.
The pillar of scale is especially important as faculty traveling to outreach/employer sites was costly as was the time factor for busy working professionals who are trying to complete a rigorous degree program.
Time and a stable LMS. It was definitely most helpful to have and Instructional Designer as part of the team. Her knowledge about technology, the LMS system used at Regis, and her experience with online instruction was a valuable addition to our planning and ongoing use of her expertise.
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